Thanks 4 the Thanks
To Ian in Scotland
Thank you for the very kind card and letter that arrived yesterday. If yours was among the Valentine’s boxes, I hope the chocolates arrived safely. In their way such packages are a metaphor for what I hope a good book will be: a sudden proof that life can veer into happiness just as quickly as it can into misery. For much of my own life I’ve carried special books with we so I could escape the present moment. These have included The Borrowers and The Martian Chronicles, and later books such as Bright Lights, Big City and Miles from Nowhere.
Eventually that same impulse drives me to write. It’s an escape, yet proof that I can create my own escape. Regardless of how the surprise occurs, it occurs like a delivery of flowers or a package, something that jolts me into sudden happiness. An emotional reset.
That’s the gist of the ending essay in my book Consider This. So-called “art” needn’t fix any social ill, or directly address a personal crisis. To me, good art returns us to a childhood state of profound amazement. To an expectation that anything wonderful is possible at any moment. While that might sound saccharine, it is my creed.
Mind you, selfishness is at the heart of everything I do. On any day when I’m feeling… less than happy, I only need to know that a package is arriving somewhere, and that it will be met with fear, confusion, and eventually joy (I hope). That is exactly how I feel about my fiction. Books are the escape of last resort for many people—look around hospitals and airports—and we ought to give those people a huge shock and surprise and relief.
We’re not fixing anyone here. There’s no social mission. Ours is just to reconnect the reader to that slack-jawed joy or horror most people haven’t felt since they were very, very young.
I am sorry for your loss. I’m glad you’re a writer. To my mind, it’s the most exciting thing any person can be.
To everyone else…
Keep an eye out for the Easter Quiz. It will drop some time this week, and I’ll take Comments for several days before I choose the winners.